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A Spandan Programme Aimed at Empowering Transgender Communities in Odisha


Originally from a small village in Puri district, Shilla comes from a very poor background. Before she got introduced to the tourism sector, she earned a meagre living through dancing and begging. 


Her life took a turn when she met someone who worked with Spandan during the COVID-19 pandemic when making ends meet had become all the more difficult. 


Spandan is an NGO that works with the coastal communities of Odisha. The organisation’s goal is to reduce the impact of natural disasters on those in the tourism sector by working in a more structured and organised way. Spandan brings together these vulnerable communities to build their capacities and strengthen existing value chains so that tourism becomes a sustainable way of living, even in times of disaster. 


The organisation also works with vulnerable groups such as LGBTQIA+ people and women who are usually disproportionately impacted when there is a loss of livelihood as a result of a natural disaster. Women and LGBTQIA+ people who work in the tourism sector are mostly uneducated or have very little education. They usually run small shops around the hotels. These establishments are severely impacted when a disaster strikes. Due to a lack of other skills, these groups are often forced to take up sex work or begging to survive. 


To help her get by during the pandemic, Spandan provided Shilla with food, relief materials, and other aid. Post the pandemic, the organization continued to support her so that she would not be forced to go back to begging to survive. With this in mind, Spandan provided her with a loan, which she used to start a dairy business. The loan was part of Spandan’s Resilience Fund, which is provided to vulnerable groups in the tourism sector to support their existing business or to start a small business. Spandan started the resilience fund for women and LGBTQIA+ communities who depend on tourism for a living. The funds raised are directed at educating and skilling women and LGBTQIA+ people so that natural disasters do not upend their livelihoods. Spandan’s Resilience Fund currently includes about twenty members. This number is expected to increase to about one hundred and sixty members in the next three to six months. 


With the loan from Spandan, Shilla is now able to sell milk from the cattle she bought and she earns a profit. The support that she got from Spandan has been a way for her to break out of the cycle of poverty. With her small business, she feels confident that she will be able to support herself well. She is all the happier because she is now associated with a network of people who treat her with dignity and respect.

" Collaborating with Spandan means that I feel more secure about the work I do and I know I have a network of people to depend on if a disaster strikes ”

Shilla, a transgender person working in the tourism sector in Odisha

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